In January of this year, inspired by our churches’ teaching, my friend, Sarah, and I began praying together once a week at school. For a little over six months, we would find an empty room somewhere on campus every Thursday, kick off our shoes, and sprawl out with our Bibles for the couple of free hours we had between classes—and looking back on that time, I am amazed at the faithfulness of God to teach us more about prayer and grow us more in godliness than we ever expected.
Hold on, you might be thinking. What is this? A humble-brag piece about some Super Christian girls who have reached Prayer Warrior™ status and now deign to bestow enlightenment upon the rest of us struggling, lesser mortals?
Lord willing, I hope not! I also hope you know that Super Christians don’t exist and that anything extraordinary in any of our lives is directly a sign of our extraordinary Redeemer’s extraordinary grace. That said, this is a story of how I discovered that corporate prayer—which I’ve spent most of my life intimidated by, and sometimes outright dreading—is truly a sweet gift of fellowship that goes on to bear fruit in our lives, particularly when practiced regularly over a long period of time.
Praying together wasn’t easy for either of us in the beginning. No matter how much Sarah and I loved our times spent in personal devotion, when it came to praying out loud in front of others, we found ourselves tongue-tied and mentally reeling with anxious questions.
What if I start speaking and somebody else starts speaking at the same time? Oh no, she’s praying exactly what I wanted to pray about, now what am I supposed to pray about? Is there anyone here who will judge me because what I just said wasn’t theologically accurate? How come he makes everything sound so beautiful, and it seems like all I do is repeat the words “help,” “just,” and “Lord” over and over?
Any of those sound familiar?
The bad news is that there’s no guarantee you’ll become more eloquent the more you pray out loud. The good news, which Sarah and I slowly realized as the weeks went by, is that God doesn’t care!
This is one of those things that is easy to know in your head, but not fully understand in your heart. In normal conversation, we easily give grace for each others’ awkwardness, stumbling speech, not-so-clever phrasing, and lost trains of thought—but when we pray, we forget that we’re still talking to a person, much less a Father and Friend whose grace far surpasses our own. “Do not heap up empty phrases,” Jesus said in Matthew 6:7, another way of saying “Don’t think that God only listens to you after you pass some human standard of ‘religious’ prayer,” because He is listening even before you ask! Our Father is aware of His weak children’s limitations, and He doesn’t ask us to overcome them before we go to Him. He just wants us to come.
Sarah and I also discovered to our delight that while we prayed, we were learning much from Scripture and from each other. We used a prayer plan that led us through different modes and topics of prayer, and we took turns weekly finding Bible verses to read before beginning each category. In this way, Scripture taught us to pray beyond our own words and thoughts. Psalm 65 taught us to bless the Lord for His salvation, His holiness, His might, and His generous provision. Jeremiah 10 taught us to confess the futility of our idols, which cannot speak or walk or do any good for us. Colossians 1 taught us to pray for our churches with Paul’s love and boldness.
It wasn’t uncommon for whatever we were reading in our personal devotions to seep over into these times of prayer, and we often paused to talk about what God had been showing us about Himself in His Word that week. What a joy it was to share these insights with each other, and then immediately return to talking with the Source of them all! As the months passed, we watched our Father answer prayer after prayer, for provision, for growth, for strength.
Sarah and I no longer have schedules that match up enough to pray together regularly, but the secret about corporate prayer is out for me: I know now that the fears I used to have about praying with other people were lies, meant to keep me from experiencing its goodness.
The taste is in my mouth now, and there’s no going back—so come find me at church if you want to pray!